DOE Announces $80M in Energy Funding


Recently, the United States Department of Energy announced an $80 million 2020 funding opportunity for its Building Energy Efficiency Frontiers and Innovation Technologies (BENEFIT) program.

The funding aims to support projects that enhance energy demand flexibility across buildings and the electric power grid.

“Improving energy efficiency in our nation’s buildings and homes enables American businesses and families to efficiently consume energy without compromising comfort or performance,” said Deputy Secretary Mark W. Menezes. “By advancing innovative technologies that enhance building design, materials, equipment, and operations, we are building a more resilient energy future.”

About the FOA

According to the DOE, residential and commercial buildings lead in the nation’s total energy demand, amounting to nearly 40% as compared to the industrial (32%) and transportation (28%) sectors. The Department adds that in some regions, buildings account for roughly 74% or more of all electricity use in America.

Through the 2020 BENEFIT FOA, the DOE intends to broaden its investments in cutting-edge, energy-saving building technologies, systems and practices that will positively impact various segments of the buildings industry.

“Projects funded under this FOA will help advance innovative buildings technologies to move toward a new generation of building energy technologies,” said Daniel R. Simmons, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “These projects will further U.S. leadership in advanced building science and technology.”

Overall, the program’s goal is to use energy more productively and efficiently, specifically the energy efficiency of America’s building stock, which consists of over 119 million homes and 5.6 million commercial buildings—more than half of which were constructed before 1980.

To tackle these issues, topics covered in the FOA include:

  • Thermal storage research;
  • Advanced heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, which can provide demand flexibility services to the grid;
  • Next generation refrigeration technologies;
  • Advanced appliance research in areas such as improved compressor design;
  • Next generation lighting;
  • Whole building electric load optimization;
  • Advanced and more efficient building construction;
  • Improved building retrofit technologies; and
  • Workforce development.

“DOE seeks to advance both the efficiency and flexibility of buildings, while improving the comfort and productivity of American families and businesses,” said Alex Fitzsimmons, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency. “This suite of technologies will not only unlock deep energy savings in buildings, but also enable buildings to provide innovative services to the grid with which they’re connected, enhancing the resilience of America’s energy system.”

Those interesting in applying for the 2020 BENEFIT FOA are asked to submit a concept paper by 5 p.m. EST, Nov. 5, to be eligible to submit a full application. More information on the FOA and how to submit an application can be found on EERE Exchange.

Recent News in Commercial Energy

At the beginning of the month, U.S. Green Building Council, along with Green Business Certification Inc., was reported to have outlined an expanded suite of resources that aim to help building and community leaders face climate risks. The USGBC said that despite the focus on economic recovery, climate events are also a threat—one that green building can help mitigate.

The announcement outlines some of the existing resources along with what the organizations call “new opportunities” listed as follows:

  • LEED: The LEED for Cities and Communities program outlines options to enhance resilience beyond a single building. More than 110 cities and communities have certified.
  • Certification Systems: GBCI integrates resilience strategies across several rating systems. RELi takes a holistic approach to resilience and helps developers, companies, city planners and others assess and plan for acute hazards. LEED credits can also count toward RELi certification.
  • Data and Technology: USGBC is working with Coastal Risk Consulting to deliver a RiskFootprint for buildings, communities and cities that provides a climate risk analysis. The service will integrate with LEED, Arc and GBCI rating systems to help assess a project’s vulnerability.
  • Workforce Education: Education @USGBC offers courses from experts working on resilience. USGBC will also open a call for ideas on enhancing resilience across the green building industry. GBCI is also developing a new RELi professional credential expected to be ready in 2021.
  • Advocacy: USGBC works with federal, state and local governments and jurisdictions to advocate for policies, guidance and incentives that support green buildings and communities. A goal of that work is to ensure disaster recovery funds are spent on high quality, resilient buildings that mitigate climate risks and promote social equity and health. The latest advocacy activities are housed in the USGBC Center for Resilience.
  • Partnerships: USGBC will leverage its network of members, partners and LEED users to build a community of leaders for resilient buildings, communities and cities. USGBC will establish partnerships with a variety of organizations committed to advancing resilience.

The USGBC notes that the revised offerings are part of its Healthy People in Healthy Places Equals a Healthy Economy strategy, which was introduced in May.

In June, American Council for Energy-Efficient Economy released a white paper calling for cities and states to mandate retrofits of inefficient buildings by requiring them to meeting certain standards carbon emission caps.

The paper, entitled, "Mandatory Building Performance Standards: A Key Policy for Achieving Climate Goals," also outlined 10 areas that it says are leading the way with their energy policies.

ACEE added that building performance standards could greatly reduce the nearly one-third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions that come from buildings. If standards are applied to two-thirds of existing buildings, that could reduce carbon emissions in 2050 by more than the current annual emissions from all buildings, power plants and vehicles in New York state.

The 10 areas the report listed include:

  • Tokyo;
  • Boulder, Colorado;
  • The United Kingdom;
  • The Netherlands;
  • Reno, Nevada;
  • France;
  • Washington, D.C.;
  • New York City;
  • Washington state; and
  • St. Louis.

Policies in these areas typically require existing buildings larger than a specific size to meet certain energy-efficient standards.

An additional funding opportunity was also announced by the USGBC in February. Through the Bank of America, the Council’s LEED for Cities and Communities program received another $500,000, which was slated to assist 20 additional city and county recipients as they pursue LEED certification to address climate change, resilience and social equity challenges in their region, according to the USGBC.

The new city and community recipients included:

  • Abington Township, Pennsylvania;
  • Charlotte, North Carolina;
  • Cleveland, Ohio;
  • Costa Mesa, California;
  • Fayetteville, Arkansas;
  • Johnson County, Kansas;
  • Kane County, Illinois;
  • Louisville, Kentucky;
  • Miami Beach, Florida;
  • Miami-Dade County, Florida;
  • Middleton, Wisconsin;
  • Nashua, New Hampshire;
  • Newark, New Jersey;
  • Northampton, Massachusetts;
  • Orange County, Florida;
  • Orange County, North Carolina;
  • Palm Beach County, Florida;
  • Santa Monica, California;
  • Sarasota, Florida; and
  • Tampa, Florida.

More than 100 cities and communities have achieved LEED certification. In addition to environmental factors, the rating system takes into account social and economic indicators, such as health, equity, education and prosperity. LEED helps local leaders hone metrics to evaluate initiatives, benchmark performance relative to peers and educate and communicate progress to stakeholders, according to the council.

The rating system is flexible and can be applied to small and large cities, counties and other local governments, as well as economic areas, such as business improvement districts and neighborhoods.

Since 2018, Bank of America has provided $1.25 million to this program, supporting a total of 41 U.S. cities and communities to date as they pursue certification.


Tagged categories: Commercial / Architectural; Commercial Buildings; Emissions; Energy efficiency; Funding; Good Technical Practice; Government; NA; North America; U.S. Department of Energy

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